By Jessica Lyons
Hope for Nepal brings education opportunities to both children and adults while also introducing them to the benefits of technology. Organization founder Ann-Marie Conrado explains to Study.com the work being done by Hope for Nepal and how others can help the cause.
Study.com: What is the mission of Hope for Nepal and how does the organization work to fulfill that mission?
Ann-Marie Conrado: Our mission is to investigate transformative models that directly link education to opportunity and empower students to take charge of their own learning. We work to fulfill that goal through various initiatives that inspire discovery, infuse creativity and generate opportunities in a country with far too few. And we support disadvantaged but promising students in their educational journey and ensure that 100% of youth in the area we serve is in school, not in the fields, a goal we can accomplish because of the grass roots nature of our organization.
Study.com Through your Education For All Initiative, you provide scholarships to students in Nepal. What sort of impact does receiving a scholarship have on these students?
AMC: Although Nepal is trying to provide free primary education for every child, there are many factors that prevent many children from attending school, such as requirements for uniforms, school supplies, books and extra fees. For other children, their families struggle to get by and need their children working in the fields. Providing a scholarship is not always enough, and we work with the families of every scholarship student to make sure all the factors are in place for their success. We also target students who often slip through the cracks, who need just a little lift up. For example, one of our scholarship students was struggling to come up with school fees to continue in secondary school. He was so driven, he would wake up two hours early, walk all the way into town to buy candy cheaper, then walk back to school and sell it to other kids to make money to pay his school fees. Our scholarship allowed him to put that time to good use focusing instead on his studies. He is now flourishing in college.
Study.com Can you tell me about Hope House and its goals for helping orphaned children?
AMC: Hope House is an intimate family home for a small group of orphaned children. We didn't set out to run an orphanage, but in conducting our other projects, we kept coming across children in the worst of situations. For a time, we placed children with other organizations, but then in a very short amount of time, we stumbled across a number of children in very difficult circumstances, and we just felt compelled to take them in. Their turnaround and progress has been nothing but remarkable, from the streets to the top of their class. All of our children attend the premier boarding school in Pokhara, ranked in the top ten in Nepal, right alongside children of the rich and elite. And they got there based entirely on their own merit, passing the very difficult entrance exam and interview process. But more importantly, Hope House is an incubator for our educational ideas on a small scale.
Study.com According to your website, handmade crafts from Nepal have limited appeal because of a lack of understanding about our country's lifestyle. How does your Design for Fair Trade Initiative address this problem?
AMC: This has been one of our most successful projects to date. We work together with Nepalese fair trade handicraft artisans to design and prototype handicraft items that are more in line with modern tastes and lifestyles. In doing so, we can broaden the market for these handicrafts, instead of just typical charitable outlets like Ten Thousand Villages or SERRV International.
We have developed hundreds of new handicraft designs over the last seven years that last year accounted for almost $800,000 in sales for the Association for Craft Producers, the largest fair trade organization in Nepal employing over 1,400 artisans. We succeed by designing items that people want to buy, not because they are fair trade or ethically sourced, but because they are beautiful and compelling.
But the education aspect comes through in the collaboration with these artisans and the knowledge we are transferring to them about global design trends, color palettes, lifestyles and contemporary tastes. These people are highly skilled artisans, but without that critical market knowledge, their skills and economic opportunities remain limited. With this knowledge transfer, we are opening up economic opportunities across the spectrum.
Study.com Hope for Nepal offers computer literacy courses through its Rural Technology Initiative. What are the benefits of participants developing computer literacy skills? How has adding technology to rural areas impacted Nepal?
AMC: When we opened our first technology center in 2004, computers were so new that some students were afraid to click the mouse thinking it might shock them. We faced so many hurdles in bringing technology to rural areas, such as insects and even birds nesting in our computers, impossibly slow dial-up Internet and rolling blackouts that lasted up to eight hours a day. But despite these challenges, the impact of technology has been incredibly beneficial. Understanding how to use computers provides a pathway to jobs in urban areas, but more importantly, the open access between classes allows people to begin to explore how to incorporate technology into their daily lives, such as local teachers who come in to use Excel to track grades and develop new teaching materials. But the one area where computer technology has made the biggest impact is on communications. Many undereducated youth go abroad for jobs, work in places like the Middle East and use the skills they learned in our center to communicate back home with family, first through e-mail and now increasingly with Skype and Facebook.
We are also very proud of the more intangible benefits our center instills through the way we teach the classes. All teachers are peers who have gone through the program, and our curriculum encourages exploration and discovery instead of the typical lecture and demonstration class. Students are given a framework of how a computer and the interface work and then are pushed to explore and find new features and figure out what they do.
Study.com How can our readers get involved and help Hope for Nepal?
AMC: We want to inspire people to get involved, and the very hands-on nature of our organization allows anyone to do so. People who are interested in visiting Nepal are encouraged to contact us and consider volunteering at Hope House or teaching in a rural school. But for those whom travel is not currently an option, even very small donations make a big difference and allow us to keep serving. We also are interested in linking up people with the children in Hope House in a new sponsorship program. We would love for families to consider sponsoring a child in a one-on-one relationship and to get to know them through e-mail and video chatting. In a mutually beneficial manner, to connect with a friend halfway around the world can make the world a smaller, more intimate place. Our children range in age from 7-13 and would love to connect with kids around the world.
Study.com Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers about Hope for Nepal?
AMC: We operate on a very basic principal: that an enriching education opens up a world of possibility. We are a small but deeply rooted community organization that is creating change one child at a time. We believe that education must be both innovative and practical. We believe that opportunities for learning should not end in childhood or in school. We have seen that individuals and communities can and will empower themselves through education, if only they are given the support they need.
Study.com has made a donation to support Hope for Nepal. Visit their website to find out how you can contribute.
Find out how OpenWorld Learning is helping students develop digital literacy skills.